Emirates last A380’s: a problem that might turn nasty

Airbus is in the final stages of building the last A380’s. The final aircraft fuselage parts were delivered to Toulouse this week and will enter what’s known as “Poste 40”, the final primary assembly building where the major parts are put together, in the first week of July.

According to Airbus, there are five A380 aircraft that are in the assembly phase in Toulouse, including the last one to be built, MSN272.

There are eight in total, as three are Hamburg Finkenwerder being fitted out.

One more is in Toulouse – the last of three for ANA in the orange turtle livery, which is stored for deferred delivery while the airline recovers from the current crisis. It should have been delivered in April but will be handed over in December.

Right now, Emirates have A6-EVL, A6-EVM and A6-EVN fitted out at Hamburg Finkenwerder pending delivery when they’ve completed their Airbus test flights. These three Emirates have paid for to about 80% and will take delivery of.

Final A380 parts travelling to Toulouse on June 17

The five at Toulouse (registered as A6-EVO, A6-EVP, A6-EVQ, A6-EVR, A6-EVS), well these are the ones Emirates is said to be substantially less keen on taking and have sought to cancel.

And that’s where things go wrong. Sir Tim Clarke of Emirates has wobbled in recent weeks over the future of the A380 fleet. Emirates has already retired its first and more are expected. Yet at the same time Clarke is happy to say that the A380 will continue in service until the 2030’s. What choice do they have? They committed to the aircraft and have neither the money or industrial capacity to replace them faster even if they wanted to. What seems certain is the fleet will shrink faster than was ever originally foreseen, when the 777-9’s come along.

The problem is the last five. Emirates will struggle to find anyone to lease them to them at reasonable rates if they chose that path, the best part of $400m each even on a 12 year lease makes them $2.8 million a month, as the entire cost will have to be covered based on no secondary user ever wanting them when they’re returned.

The airline doesn’t want to have to find the best part of $1.8 billion to pay for them in cash less the deposits, and Airbus have made it clear they’ll sue any airline trying to cancel any aircraft already on the production line if they refuse delivery.

The one thing Airbus do not want is five A380’s leaving Toulouse and then fitted out in a specific airlines interior nobody else will touch. They may as well scrap them. So if Emirates don’t want them and are prepared to pay the penalties to avoid them which at this stage will be around 60% of the cost, it needs resolving before they’re fitted out. At least at that point Airbus might find an airline willing to buy them at a discount when things improve. It’s bargains like that British Airways as one example, are always looking for. Yet have they too lost their appetite for the giant of the skies?

So quite what will happen to the final five? Watch this space. Personally, I suspect Emirates will end up with them, probably stretched out over a longer period out to 2024-5, but to make that happen five more will be retired.